Volvo Penta's smallest gasoline sterndrive, the carbureted 4.3GL, develops 190-hp. Based on a GM Vortec V-6 truck engine, the 4.3GL is a popular power choice among builders of boats from 18' to 22' or thereabouts. This one is mated to a Duoprop outdrive.
Important Standard Features
The 4.3GL's block, cylinder heads and exhaust manifolds are cast iron, specially developed for the marine environment, according to Volvo. The manifolds and risers are EDP treated for increased durability. Not enough boaters inspect their exhaust risers regularly, and too many engines die a premature death when their risers fail and let water into the cylinders. Extending their life is a good thing. The 4.3GL is seawater-cooled, with the water pump on the front of the engine for easy service.
The Glastron GLS 195 is a typical application for the 4.3GL. When we tested the 2,915 lb. (1,322 kg.) boat, it ran 41.5 knots tops, cruised at 22.2 knots with 3.48 nmpg economy. The sterndrive was a single-prop Aquamatic SX. Power steering is standard.
Vibration can be a problem with V-6 engines because of their inherent imbalance, so Volvo Penta added a gear-driven balance shaft in the center of the 4.3GL to counteract the motor's natural vibration. The builder says this arrangement removes virtually all vibration, and makes the engine quieter, too. The valve train is single-cam, with hydraulic lifters, pushrods and two valves per cylinder. Pistons have two compression rings and one scraper ring – valuable info for mechanics, but we doubt anyone chooses an engine based on the number of piston rings. But we like that kind of thing, and pass it on to you.
The 4.3GL can be ordered with single-prop SX drives, too. The seawater pump and dipstick are mounted at the front of the engine for easy access. A 75-amp alternator is standard. The engine sits on two adjustable rubber mounts, with two more between the transom shield and the engine.
Exhaust emissions are an important factor in engine selection today, especially in the U.S. where new, lower permissible levels are coming into effect. Volvo Penta says the 4.3GL has an "advanced" combustion system that "minimizes noxious exhaust emissions." However, there is no catalytic converter on the engine, so if you need compliance with the new CARB or EPA standards, check before buying. We think that if the engine is sold in your area, it probably meets the requirements; however, we called several authorized Volvo Penta dealers, and the company itself, but could get no definitive info on this.
If you want a catalyzed Volvo Penta, you'll have to move up to a V-8. Volvo V-8s comply with California's CARB 4 Star Super Ultra Low emissions standards, and meet the U.S. EPA emissions requirements. All Volvo Penta gasoline engines, including the 4.3GL, comply with the European RCD regulation.
Premier's 235 Escapade, at 2,350 lbs. (1,066 kg), ran 31.0 knots during our test, and cruised at 17.0 with 3.06 nmpg fuel burn. Power was a single 4.3GL Duoprop.
Volvo Penta ships the 4.3GL with a complete instrument panel, including tach, coolant temperature, oil pressure and voltmeter. The trim switch is, naturally, standard, but a digital trim gauge is optional. Wiring harnesses are also included. There is an "extensive" range of accessories, according to Volvo; check with your local dealer for details.
You can download drawings and complete dimensions of the 4.3GL from the Volvo Penta website, providing all you need to know to determine if the engine will fit in your boat.
If You Need More Power
The carbureted 4.3GL develops 190-hp at 4600 rpm, but some folks will want a little more power. For them, Volvo Penta builds a slightly more sophisticated 4.3-liter engine, the GXiE. With multi-port fuel-injection, the 4.3GXiE develops 225-hp at 4800. Both engines are built on the same V-6 block, but the GXiE adds more than just horsepower: EVC (electronic vessel control) and electronic shift/throttle can also be added. (In some markets EVC is included as standard.)
What would these folks, enjoying their new Volvo Penta sterndrives in the late 1950s, think of EVC, Duoprops and electronic controls?
The EVC system displays all available engine information – rpm, coolant temp, voltage, crankcase oil pressure, transmission oil temperature and pressure, etc. -- on a single multi-function display, and can include a trip computer with instant and average fuel burn and time and distance to empty tanks. It's a useful system, and we think would make upgrading from the 4.3GL to the 4.3GXiE a worthwhile investment.
However, we think either Volvo Penta 4.3-liter engine is an excellent choice for the smaller runabout or pontoon boat. If the 4.3GL will do the job for you, go for it; use the money you save for gas.
BoatTEST.com Test Results
GL Model -- BoatTEST.com has tested seven boats from a 17’ sport boat to a 23’ pontoon boat with the Volvo Penta 4.3L GL engine. To see the test results of the trials…
GXi Model – BoatTEST.com has tested nine boats from a 19’ sportboat to a 30’ cruiser with the Volvo Penta 4.3L GXi engine. the test results…
For more information on the 4.3L, go to Volvo Penta’s website…